June 19, 2012 – Fifteen murder suspects, eight armed robbery suspects and six persons awaiting trial for stealing were among those who regained freedom when Justice Dorothy Iyamba, the Chief Judge of Cross River State visited the Afokang Federal Prisons in Calabar over the weekend Also set free are those awaiting trial for kidnapping, child trafficking and conspiring to cause communal conflict.
Justice Iyamba, who reviewed the cases of over 200 of the 650 awaiting trial inmates had to set 34 of them free following procedural defects in their trial, shoddy police investigation, poor health of inmates, missing case files and detention for prolonged periods without trial. Among those set free was a 41-year old lady Felicia Alfa, who allegedly killed her husband by bursting his testicles in a fight in the night when the man demanded for sex from her.
She was said to be having vaginal infection which is bringing out a discharge which emits offensive odour and for fear of infecting other inmates, the prison authorities presented her for release.
James Efiok, who was said to have had unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl was also released after spending ten months in detention without charges brought against him. Another inmate, Edet Bassey, who is awaiting trial for armed robbery, was also released following the absence of a case file documenting his charges.
Shuaibu Mohammed, who was said to have blown open an NNPC pipeline, was also set free after spending four years in detention. Also set free are four chiefs from the village of Nsadop in the central part of Cross River State, who were accused of conspiring and kidnapping a man from the neighbouring village of Boje. Justice Iyamba told them that the state “had nothing against you” and accordingly set them free.
Justice Iyamba, who said she is often pained by the poor police investigation and attitude of the Department of Public Prosecution, said releasing the detainees was not healthy for society but their continued incarceration was abuse of their fundamental human rights and therefore they had to be released.
The Chief Judge was particularly pained by the case of three young men Alphornsus Mbakara, Raymond Johnson Itoro and Christopher Akpan, who have been in detention since December 2005 for allegedly gang-raping a lady, and said their continued detention was intolerable. “Even if they were found guilty and sentenced they would not have spent more than the seven years which they have been kept languishing in detention,” she said.
She, however, did not set them free but ordered that they be made to appear in court on the first working day of the week. She also refused to release Uzo Orji, a 21-year old lady who is alleged to have conspired with others now at large to rob Mallams in Calabar who operate the black market money exchange. She was said to have told the mallams that she had dollars worth N16 million to change to naira.
“She allegedly connived with some people and cut some papers to the size of dollars and covered them with some few dollar notes and showed the money changers that she wanted to change a worth N16 million. The mallams had to mop all the money they had to that amount and put in the boot of her car. She first took them to First Bank, Calabar Road as the venue for the exchange, but she later changed the venue to Peperoni along Marian Road, but on the way to the place four gunmen stopped the car and she also pulled out her gun and ordered the mallams out of the car and drove off to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State where they shared the money,” Mr Akwaji Ikong, the DPP for the state, told Justice Iyamaba.
She then ordered for her accelerated trial. Justice Iyamba said at the close of the prison court session that she was impressed with the clean environment in spite of the bloated population in the prison